We all practice short field landings. It is a part of the Recreational, Private, Commercial, and ATP practical tests. But how practical is it? How often do we actually land on runways that are only 1,500 feet long? Not often, but wait! There is a situation that pilots do face regularly that does require the short field landing technique. It is called Land and Hold Short Operations (LAHSO). LAHSO takes place at larger airports that have intersecting runways. In order to handle as many aircraft operations as possible, controllers will often assign a pilot to land on one runway, but to hold short of the crossing runway. This allows the controller to issue a takeoff or landing clearance to another airplane on the crossing runway.
That’s right, two airplanes are cleared at the same time on runways that intersect!
Your runway may actually be 5,000 feet long, but in this situation the pilot is only authorized to use what may be only the first 1,500 feet of that runway. This is where your short field landing proficiency will pay off. First you must know how much runway is actually available to you. LAHSO available runway lengths are published in the back of the FAA’s Airport/Facilities Directory, but pilots seldom have time to look that up while on short final approach. To find out the distance available, simply ask the controller. Next, determine if the runway length available to you is an adequate distance for you and your airplane. If it is enough room, then put your short field landing skills to work. If there is not enough room, tell the controller you would rather come back when you can get the full length.
General Aviation pilots do not have a very good track record when it comes to LAHSO. The pilots who are members of the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) recently voted to reject all takeoff and landing clearances when General Aviation airplanes have been given a LAHSO instruction. The ALPA members must believe that the short field landing skills of General Aviation pilots are not good enough or not consistent enough to trust.
Know your runway markings. Ask for help when you need it and practice your technique. With runway incursion accidents rising, we need to stay sharp.